Fraud: Ripping Off The Elderly

More than half a billion pounds was stolen from people aged 65 and over in England and Wales last year - but many victims fear coming forward as those stealing from them are family members, close friends or those in positions of trust.

As the government prepares to modernise power of attorney procedures, Tonight asks is enough being done to protect older people from financial abuse?

According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately 1.5 million older adults in England experienced some form of financial abuse in 2020. But as victims often don’t report the abuse when perpetrators are family members or those in positions of trust, the real figures may be much higher.

In Suffolk, safer ageing charity Hourglass is trying to improve people’s awareness of the signs of financial and economic abuse - anything from carers or family members using a person’s bank card without their consent, to pressuring an older person into changing their will, to depriving them of necessities like food and shelter.

With an ageing population, and 1 in 2 of us at risk of being directly impacted by dementia as we get older, the government is encouraging us to set up a lasting power of attorney. So that if you do lose capacity, someone you trust is able to act on your behalf to manage your finances and care.

The Office of the Public Guardian registered over 1 million lasting powers of attorney in the year 2022-2023, up 9% on the previous year. The government will be updating the application process for Power of Attorney using a new act of parliament, including bringing in an online-only version of Lasting Power of Attorney.

Whether applying online yourself, or seeking professional assistance, the key thing is to use power of attorney to ensure that your decisions are carried out for you by those you trust. 

Financial abuse can be difficult to spot, but if you have concerns, you can make a report to your local authority’s safeguarding team, the police or the Office of the Public Guardian.

Some have called for improved procedures by banks when power of attorney is being used, with Holly Chantler, Director of Lifetime Lawyers saying:

The Office of the Public Guardian is working with financial institutions to support the use of power of attorney - in 2020, the OPG launched a digital access code that can be shared with banks and other organisations to confirm that an LPA is in place.

British banks say they are working hard to support customers who are using power of attorney, with most high street banks offering guidance and support for both donors and attorneys.

UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry, has said that the banking industry has procedures in place to spot financial abuse, and to support banking customers who may be victims of financial abuse.

Useful Links & Helplines

  • If you wish to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney you can visit the LPA website for England and Wales

  • In Scotland, visit Office of the Public Guardian Scotland

  • In Northern Ireland, information can be found on the NI Direct website 

  • For information, help or financial advice head to Age UK website or call their helpline on 0800 678 1602

  • If you want to learn more about financial abuse visit Money Helper website to find out how to spot the signs and where to get help and advice

  • If you are an older person and need information and support or you’re concerned about an older person who is at risk visit the Hourglass website or call their national helpline 0808 808 8141

If you are worried for your safety at home head to Refuge or call their National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247